Renting music

I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber now for two years now. For some reason, Spotify never sold me on the premise of renting music instead of buying it to own.  Back in 2012 when I briefly subscribed to it, my internal argument against it was that I tended to listen to the same albums again and again a lot for a month or so, before coming obsessed with something else and listening to that on repeat for a month, and so on. Just buying the music (either as a download as a CD I would immediately rip) seemed like better value to me. 

Gradually though I warmed to the idea, and invested in a Sonos system. The Sonos Play 1 is a brilliantly piece of kit. Affordable at £200, and expandable (For six months I only had one speaker and it still sounded great, eventually I saved up make it a stereo pair making it sound amazing), it’s not really designed for people with local music collections however. While you can play music from your iTunes library but then it’s dependant on the device that hosts the music being switched on. I succumbed and subscribed to Apple Music. I considered Spotify again, but really liked how Apple Music integrates with the Apple Watch. Being able to download a playlist onto my watch and listen while running with no phone is extremely useful. 

Two years later it’s become something I am just used to. Any song I want, I can have it within seconds. Part of this makes me feel a sense of remorse – we used to wait, as the Arcade Fire once sang, but now everything has to be instant. Could I go back to buying music? It turns out, I actually quite like disassociating the act making a purchase with actual consumption. Somehow it now feels crude to link artistic enjoyment to capital. I get that I own none of it – there’s no option for me to sell my CDs secondhand to make some money should the need ever arise, and if I stop subscribing then I’m left with no music at all. But being able to enjoy music purely on its merits, and not have to think whether it was worth £9 is strangely liberating.

Manic Street Preachers album
This Manic Street Preachers album was released in 1998, not 2018

Apple Music isn’t perfect however, there’s a few issues I’d love to see them solve:

  • Support for Amazon Echo (they have this in the US, so I’m hoping the UK won’t be too far behind)
  • Some albums have been uploaded carelessly, they have demos play as part of the main album, or missing tracks.  We need a way to report such errors.
  • When albums get remastered, they are just added as a new album for the the artist with the current year as the release date. Instead, it should show the original release date and a separate field saying “remastered in”. Kind of like how you see the “first published” date along with the edition date in books.
  • Again with remastered albums, you end up with duplicate songs. It would be great if your playlists (and shared playlists) automatically got the remastered versions of a song, and the old versions were hidden. I understand not everyone likes modern remastering techniques, so maybe make it a checkbox “Prefer remastered songs” ?
  • Don’t ever recommend to me Boyzone again 🤣

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